There is an ongoing debate about the angels in Andrei Rublev's icon of the Trinity, painted around 1410, and about which one represents the Son and which the Holy Spirit. For the Word become flesh, my money is on the one wearing blue and brown, for those hues suggest one who comes from heaven to earth to reconcile both in his one person.
The author's breadth of vision has enormous implications for how we
understand the nature of Christian truth and the relationship between
indispensable core doctrines and later theological interpretations.
On a Sunday when John the Baptist's call
for repentance roars in our ears, we need reminders of the precedence of
gift, the prevenience of grace. For John's sermonic cry to "prepare the
way of the Lord" can seem all task and no gift. It calls out the Pelagian in all
of us, the voluntarist who wants to build the kingdom. Careless hearing leads
us to imagine that if we "make his paths straight," he will come.
In a new study
on the influence of the NeoReformed or "New Calvinist" movement on the church,
the Barna Group concludes that "there is no discernable evidence from this
research that there is a Reformed shift among U.S. congregation leaders over
the last decade." A number of
evangelical Christian leaders maintain that the study seems to contradict their on-the-ground
Working with this week's apocalyptic Gospel text evokes
memories of childhood experiences and teachings in a Mennonite congregation
with a fundamentalist understanding of Bible and life. Within that setting,
however, my family was solidly Anabaptist in outlook and rooted in social
justice concerns. My public school was, for a community in the middle of rural
Illinois, a virtual hotbed of ecumenicity, with all the major and many of the
minor denominations represented. All this made for some interesting tensions,
especially in a family with an ethos of discernment rather than rules.
During his only visit to America, theologian Karl Barth in 1962 visited three prisons: Bridewell House of Correction in Chicago, San Quentin in California, and Rikers Island in New York. He called Bridewell “Dante’s inferno on earth” and said it was a contradiction of the wonderful message on the Statue of Liberty. Barth wondered aloud why theologians weren’t denouncing the deplorable conditions in American prisons, calling out Reinhold Niebuhr in particular (Jessica DeCou, “The First Community: Barth’s American Prison Tours,” in Karl Barth and the Making of Evangelical Theology, Eerdmans).